E-male looks for love

A new survey finds that men waste more time than their female workmates flirting and gossiping by email

Many may have suspected it, but now the figures are there to prove it. Men are the main offenders of using email to spice up their working day and flirt with their female colleagues, according to a new survey by the email marketing company edesigns.co.uk.

The study looked into the bad email habits of men and women, and discovered that email is now the number one channel for kindling office romances. Over a third of all men surveyed admitted to spending more than 40 minutes of each working day flirting or gossiping via email. Their female counterparts appear more cautious about creating another Claire Swires fiasco, with only 13 percent of women using email to flirt with their workmates.

But there is a serious side to the issue. "Although the research shows some quirky results, there is still an important issue concerning misuse of email at work. As email is a quick and simple form of communication, companies are losing precious work hours as a result of email abuse," said Louis Halpern, chief executive officer of the Email Marketing Association.

But women are equally guilty of abusing their office email privileges. More than a third of women use email for over two hours a week to plan their weekends and social lives. A further 18 percent use the convenience of email to contact their siblings, and 15 percent use it to gossip about staff.

The survey revealed that both men and women have become more confident about using work email to forward links to pornographic Web sites. Thirteen percent of men and seven percent of women admitted to this risky habit.

Sacking employees for perceived misuse of email is nothing new, and the edesigns survey indicates that companies should wise up about setting out an email code of practice for their employees. Businesses are now facing a difficult choice -- either allowing employees freedom of email speech and risking libel actions or complaints, or breaking Data Protection principles by spying on what their employees are writing.

"We suggest that managers adopt a definite email policy defining acceptable parameters for email usage. Such information can be communicated in employment contracts, manuals and via Intranets," said Helpern. "Whilst companies should not deny staff a reasonable amount of time to conduct personal affairs, companies can protect themselves by providing employees with access to personal emails -- either Web-based addresses, or using branded emails to distinguish between work and personal emails."

See the Internet News Section for full coverage.

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